Unified flood model with optimal zooming and linking at multiple scales

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Civil and Structural Engineering


Flood hazards are increasing in frequency and magnitude and yet recent events have shown that our current knowledge and forecast of flooding is limited. Today 5.2 million properties in Britain are at risk of flooding where populations could lose their livelihood, homes and lives, and the UK government estimates the annual flood damage cost to be around £1 billion. Therefore, there are inevitable trends for improving the flood management technology to reduce the risk reaching and affecting people. It is certain that improved modelling and forecasting of floods is a core solution for transforming the flood management technology, as prioritized within the 2011-2030 UK Flood and Costal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) research strategy.

This first grant proposal will seek to build upon the outputs of the Flood Risk Management Research Consortium (FRMRC). It will elaborate and assess a new flood modelling framework featured by a comprehensive numerical solution hierarchy that enables zooming to optimum scale (spatial and temporal), automatic adaption to necessary accuracy and efficiency, and communication of flow information and restoration of terrain data across different scales. The research will be the first step to develop, assess and deliver a joined-up modelling approach for simulation of large-scale flood scenarios with genuine incorporation of inter-regional interactions across multiple scales. This will mean that efficient, credible and very accurate flood simulations will be affordable at wide ranging scales, and including domains with dense and coarse flow or landscape features.

The model will be designed by further developing an advanced flood model based on the Discontinuous Galerkin (DG) finite element method, with the multi-scale decomposition facilitated by the fitness of Multi-Wavelets (MW). The model will take advantage of the MW scalability to allow: (i) adaptivity across spatial scales in an entirely solution-driven manner, and (ii) large time stepsand condensed operational costs to boost efficiency. Meanwhile, the MW-DG model will be supported with relevant advances in computational hydraulics to enable practical usability. These will include solving the full 2D shallow water equations for accuracy and the incorporation of natural terrain data, and modelling wetting and drying processes for practical applications.
This capability is beyond even most advanced current flood models which are limited to a particular formulation or scale of the mesh and may grow unsystematic uncertainty when applied to simulate compound flood problems. This will be the first time in the world that such a holistic approach will be taken to flood risk modelling. The project involves a partnership with Prof Müller's team at RWTH Aachen as a world leader in wavelet based modelling techniques. The novel flood model will be validated for real-scale flood scenarios (e.g. the Thamesmead district) and by comparing with current computer models for flood risk simulation recommended by the Environment Agency (EA).

The project will exploit a new concept that is of strategic relevance to the software industry and will provide a novel tool that can be used by end-users to improve the basis of flood risk assessment. Therefore, the delivered science and model can make a real difference in the world and will directly benefit government agencies and consulting engineers responsible for flood risk planning and management, i.e. the EA and Defra, and industrial software developers, i.e. Innovyze Ltd.

The outputs of the research can ultimately benefit the wider public with improved sustainable living with risk of flooding, and reduced socio-economic and insurance costs. Finally, industrial liaison and dissemination activities, including a project conference, are planned to ensure the take-up of the new technology and benefit international researchers and UK organizations.

Planned Impact

The research will deliver a validated scalability Computational Flood Model (CFM) that morphs scales and refines in accuracy for conservative, accurate and efficient flood inundation modelling across multiple scales, all within a joined-up modelling framework. The most obvious beneficiaries of the research are decision-makers who require more advanced modelling techniques to provide timely information for flood warnings to save lives and avoid economic losses, due to flood inundation at local, regional or national scales. These beneficiaries include government agencies, local authorities and regulators with environmental duties, engineering and consultant practitioners, emergency planners and civilians who wish to assess potential flood risk around properties. Therefore, the research has an impact on the economy, health and wellbeing of the society.

The UK community from across different sectors working on the implementation of the first UK Flood and Costal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) strategy 2011-2030 will also benefit from the research. In particular this includes consultants at the Environment Agency (EA) who are seeking improved real-time flood forecasting approaches with better spatial coverage, timeliness and lead-time, accuracy and estimates of uncertainty. The project will therefore be realized in coordination and communication with consultants at the EA to engage in local events for knowledge and technology exchange, which is key to ensure further investment of the research and to increase the effectiveness of public services and flood policy (see EA letter of support). This will result in the opportunity to prioritise flood protection and alleviation schemes.

Industrial software developers within commercial organizations, involved in the design and improvement of hydraulic modelling software packages are key beneficiaries from the research. The science and model from this work is of particular relevance to R&D consultants at Innovyze Ltd (i.e. HR Wallingford) who will benefit by having access to a new flood simulation expertise capable of providing unified scalability framework addressing complex flooding challenges. Regular meetings with consultants at HR Wallingford will take place over the duration of the project to demonstrate the new technology, which is an efficient dissemination route to accelerate the pace of development, stability and reliability of the technology in the commercial practice (see HR Wallingford letter of support). In the long term, it is anticipated that the technique developed will be incorporated into industry standard software that may be applied internationally.
The project will yield a trained scientist/engineer with a unique skill, and involved in engagement activities with international research teams, industrial consultants and UK-based researchers. Such training will have a direct economic impact via the provision of skilled workers who may subsequently be employed by UK organizations.

A local conference will be organized at Sheffield assembling related cross disciplinary researchers, project supporters and potential beneficiaries. Fellow UK researchers will be invited to attend the event as well as associate researchers from Europe and the industry. The conference will be free and the travel/accommodation costs for young researchers will be covered by the departmental support to the project (see host organization letter). It will aim to create opportunities to make plans for further collaborative projects.
Indeed, the project will potentially make a great contribution to the flood risk management technology within the next 5-20 years, which is a key benefit to the general public to ensure better sustainable living with flood risks and to keep the costs of insurance affordable for UK businesses and the public, and the stability of the UK general economy.


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Haleem D (2015) Haar wavelet-based adaptive finite volume shallow water solver in Journal of Hydroinformatics

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Kesserwani G (2016) Preface Special Issue "Advances in Numerical Modelling of Hydrodynamics" in Applied Mathematical Modelling

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Kesserwani G (2015) Multiwavelet discontinuous Galerkin h -adaptive shallow water model in Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering

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Kesserwani G (2014) Discontinuous Galerkin flood model formulation: Luxury or necessity? in Water Resources Research

Description We have discovered that the use wavelet-based technology within the core formulation of state-of-the-art flood model is the promising way forward to comprehensively achieve data connectivity form flood modelling across different length-scales.
Exploitation Route The concept that has been proved via this grant will provide a leap forward in improving unified flood modelling ranging from a neighborhood scale to national scale.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Education,Energy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

URL http://www.internationalinnovation.com/turning-the-tide/
Description Research Stays for University Academics and Scientist
Amount € 5,125 (EUR)
Funding ID A1372005 
Organisation German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 09/2013 
End 02/2014
Description Linking with mathematical developer of wavelet-based numerical methods 
Organisation RWTH Aachen University
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The PI's team has introduced wavelet-based numerical modelling for hydraulic modelling with a view to proof the concept for broader flood modelling.
Collaborator Contribution The partner's team offered their mathematical expertise of multi-resolution and numerical analysis to help the PI to initial the capability of automated zooming and linking from within flood modelling.
Impact - The joint organization of the Advances in Numerical Modelling of Hydrodynamics workshop (24-25 March, Sheffield 2015). - Joint Guest editorship of the a workshop special issue during 2015-2016 in Applied Mathematical Modelling journal. - Joint publication submissions: 2 papers submitted (1 in Computer Method in Applied Mechanics and Engineering and 1 in Journal of Computational Physics).
Start Year 2012
Title Creation of a wavelet-based flood modelling technology 
Description Fully-scalable and self-adaptable flood model software allowing by design to: zoom in/out the modelling-resolution to optimum scale of a problem, error-quality control requiring only one user-parameter-input and transfer/recovers modelling data at disparate physical scales. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact The bridging of an important gap between frontier mathematical advances (crossing numerical methods and multi-resolution analysis) and what is current emerging in hydraulic modelling.